Early One Morning

Early one morning in May I set out,
And nobody I knew was about.
I’m bound away for ever,
Away somewhere, away for ever.

There was no wind to trouble the weathercocks.
I had burnt my letters and darned my socks.

No one knew I was going away,
I thought myself I should come back some day.

I heard the brook through the town gardens run.
O sweet was the mud turned to dust by the sun.

A gate banged in a fence and banged in my head.
‘A fine morning, sir’, a shepherd said.

I could not return from my liberty,
To my youth and my love and my misery.

The past is the only dead thing that smells sweet,
The only sweet thing that is not also fleet.
I’m bound away for ever,
Away somewhere, away for ever.

— Edward Thomas (1878-1917)

I read a few of Thomas’ poems this month. He is an English poet, and an influence on Robert Frost. I like his poems for their simplicity, their quiet wisdom, and the way the end of the poem often brings in meaning to the previous lines. In this poem, I love the line, “The past is the only dead thing that smells sweet/” It speaks for itself, but it also turns the speaker’s little story into the reader’s big story. We are all set out, never to return, bound away forever somewhere.

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